With the threat of immediate danger now gone, our heroes began trying to save who and what they could in the burning ruins of Phandalin. They found Linene Graywind alive but unstable, and Linny fixed her dislocated shoulder while Ye’Kan tried to comfort her as a boyfriend might do (though it is important to note that he is not, in fact, her boyfriend). Barthen was found face down with visible wounds on his back but was able to be stabilized. They heard whimpers and cries coming from beneath a collapsed building, and Gaius lifted the rubble to find a wounded Mirna Dendar and her two children, who were also then healed. Toblen the innkeeper emerged from the rubble visibly shaken but upright and coherent, and told the group that he had heard screaming and that the Townmaster’s Hall had burst into flames to cause all of this. He also relayed that there had been some kind of “green energy” being thrown around and that’s what had killed the many militia members that lay dead in the streets. Medivh investigated one of their bodies and found the energy to be a form of hostile necromancy that killed from the inside.
The adventurers asked Toblen and Gundren to help direct the remaining survivors to the inn, which while damaged was still the most stable part of town. Linny continued to run around desperately searching for more survivors and used her fox to help guide them to the safe zone. The boys went to the Townmaster’s Hall to investigate the epicenter of the destruction and see what they could learn. The building had exploded from the inside, and near the jail cell where they had left Iarno they found a single clean spot on the floor outside of the cell, implying that this is where the explosion had come from. They also found the charred corpse of Harbin Westor who was holding the Townmaster Key, and the group was confused by the evidence that seemed to suggest that Iarno had been let out of his cell before the carnage had started. They searched Harbin’s office but found nothing of importance and nothing to imply that he was guilty of colluding with Iarno and Sildar.
The party returned to the designated safe zone and saw that the destruction had left only 30 survivors out of the original town population of 300. Linene, Barthen, and Toblen all offered their respective wares and services to the group for free in exchange for avenging their city. The group took some healing potions from Linene and Ye’Kan promised her that he would be back for her someday, a sentiment that aroused almost no emotion in her and probably sounded better in his head. Back at the inn, Gundren told the group to rest up because tomorrow they were headed straight to Wave Echo Cave. He returned to bang on their doors a few hours later, waited for them to group up, and off they went.
It was a week’s journey to Wave Echo. Gundren remembered the route correctly for the most part despite not having his map, and along the way explained that his two brothers had also gone to the cave to investigate the Forge of Spells, which he said could be deadly if it fell into the wrong hands. As they finally came within view of the entrance, they saw Grol the invincible bugbear, his Drow servant, the Drow’s wolf, and four more bugbears walk into the cave. Gundren explained that that was the only way inside, so the party approached with caution. Not long after entering, Gundren suddenly ran forward with great concern and found the body of his brother Tharden tied to a giant stalagmite. After a brief moment of mourning, the dwarf said that they must continue; he also removed his brother’s Boots of Striding and Springing, which magically increase speed and jumping distance, and gave them to Linny.
Venturing further into the cave, they came to a fork in the road: a somewhat lit path to the left and a completely dark path to the right. Gundren said the Forge of Spells was somewhere down the dark path, so the party picked the option to the right. As they proceeded they started to feel rumbling around them that only intensified the further they went. The first cavern they came to was full of stirges, but as she had done multiple times before, Linny communicated with them and distracted them with her last remaining portion of owlbear meat. The next cavern was full of large mushrooms covered in spores that were giving off some kind of gaseous cloud filling the room. Medivh recognized the gas as being poisonous and shot a firebolt at the mushrooms, burning them down and causing the cloud to dissipate. They moved further and came to a wooden door at the end of a hallway, a strange thing to appear deep inside a dank cave. Gaius detected the presence of something undead on the other side and Ye’Kan heard strange disembodied voices, and the two of them combined to accidentally write a song about who one should call for busting ghosts.
They entered the door and saw the apparition at the back of the room, which immediately turned to look at them. The transparent ghost had a skeletal face and wizardly robes; drawing on his knowledge of history, Medivh recognized him as Mormesk, a once-powerful mage who died in the cave centuries ago during the orc attack. Mormesk was initially offended at the party’s presence but calmed once they said they were there to defeat the Black Spider. The ghost confirmed that the Black Spider’s real name was Nezznar and that Nezznar was a fool who should not be messing with the Forge. Mormesk told the group that they must remove the Black Spider’s guardian, a spectator, and then produced a flameskull from his hand to assist them in that task. Gaius nicknamed the skull Toodles after a childhood pet, and the group was allowed to proceed.
The rumbling and tremors continued to get stronger as they moved deeper into the cave. Finally the path ended in an enormous cavern with large waterfalls in the back and lava slowly pouring down the sides of an elevated platform in the center of the room. On that platform was a large illuminated anvil-shaped device that Gundren identified as the Forge of Spells, and floating above the anvil was the Black Spider. Gundren charged in but the Black Spider seemed unaffected, only moving to pick up his staff off the active Forge. The group recognized the staff as the same one Iarno had used to teleport away from the destruction in Phandalin, but now the staff was imbued with some sort of new power from the Forge. Nezznar calmly drew a circle in the air with his staff, which created a portal that his horrifying pet spectator came through, and then the Drow vanished into thin air. The spectator immediately made its presence felt psychically in the back of the party’s minds, which frightened Ye’Kan (probably because of his previous psychic trauma with the Nothic) but the Bard pulled himself together enough to cast a Blindness spell on the creature and its many eyes. This gave the spectator a great disadvantage in the battle, and eventually Toodles finished the monster off with a Magic Missile spell.
On the side of the Forge the party found two other completed magic items: the Lightbringer mace, which they had read about previously in Tresendar Manor and was taken by Linny, and the Dragonguard breastplate, which was taken by Ye’Kan. Mormesk reappeared and told the group that they could have the chest that had been inside his cavern, then disappeared again while Toodles stayed behind to guard the Forge. With nowhere else to go, the party retraced their footsteps back down the path, stopping only to collect the modest treasure in Mormesk’s chest and once again distract a group of 18 stirges with the corpse of the spectator. Returning to the original fork in the road, the party this time headed left down the lit path on a mission to find Gundren’s remaining brother and stop the Black Spider for good.
Not long after selecting this new path, the party heard the familiar terrifying voice of Grol behind them. The bugbear king of goblins charged with his maul and chased the adventurers into another large cavern with a bonfire burning in the middle, where he stopped in his tracks to watch as Vyerith his Drow servant and Snarl the wolf entered the room from the opposite side and engaged them in combat. Linny was able to finish off Snarl with her brand new mace and Medivh took care of Vyerith by levitating the Drow into the air and then back down into the middle of the fire pit where he quickly burned to death.
Grol did not seem too upset at this outcome and entered the room to fight the party himself. It was quickly discovered that their spells had absolutely no effect on the 8-foot-tall bugbear, and the group began to grow concerned that the rumors of his invincibility were real. They soon realized that his metal armor was covered in runes, and Gundren called out that the runes had to be broken. The dwarf caused enough of a distraction to allow Linny to scratch out one of the runes on Grol’s left shoulder, which went from light to dark proving Gundren’s theory. The group surrounded the villain and scratched out the runes on his other shoulder and his chest, and Linny used her new magic jumping boots to get high enough to scratch out the final rune on the top of his helmet. Grol immediately removed the armor, revealing that he was “bug-bare ass naked” underneath, and the armor imploded into itself on the ground. Now vulnerable to all attacks, Grol eventually fell when Linny jumped up to his eye level and gave him a faceful of mace. Gaius claimed Grol’s maul for himself and passed his Black Hawk longsword on to Medivh. Riding a wave of success, the party prepared to venture further into Wave Echo Cave to confront the Black Spider and his lackeys and avenge Phandalin.